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Tennessee Football Opponent Preview: Alabama Crimson Tide

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NCAA Football: Missouri at Alabama John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

After a huge 30-24 win on the road against then-No. 21 Auburn, Tennessee returns to Knoxville to play host to No. 1 Alabama on Saturday.

While many Tennessee fans — or fans of any opponent of the Crimson Tide this season — are not exactly looking forward to playing Alabama, last week’s win put Tennessee’s season back on track regardless of what happens this week.

Alabama is currently a 29-point favorite over Tennessee in this year’s version of the Third Saturday in October.

Overview

There isn’t much I can say about Alabama which hasn’t already been said.

Nick Saban’s machine continues rolling on this season with quite possibly the best team he’s ever had at Alabama. The Crimson Tide has its always-stout defense, but this iteration also has the Heisman frontrunner at quarterback in Tua Tagovailoa.

In seven games, Tagovailoa has completed 88 of his 123 pass attempts for 1,760 yards and 21 touchdowns without throwing an interception. Tagovailoa suffered a minor knee injury last week against Missouri, but Saban said he could have returned to the game if necessary.

For all the success Saban has had at Alabama, he has done so largely with average quarterback play — and also rarely having a good kicker, somehow. Adding the best quarterback in the country to the Crimson Tide is just unfair.

Last Week

Alabama moved to 7-0 last week when the Crimson Tide defeated Missouri at home, 39-10.

Missouri kept the game close for a quarter, ending the first quarter down just 13-10, but Alabama eventually did what it has done to everyone it has played this season and ended the game scoring 26 unanswered points.

Tagovailoa finished the game 12-22 for 265 yards and three touchdowns. Alabama’s running back trio of Damien Harris, Najee Harris and Josh Jacobs combined for 171 yards on 36 carries and a touchdown.

Impact Players

QB Tua Tagovailoa — This one is pretty obvious, as Tagovailoa is the best player Tennessee will see this season. It’s only his first season starting for the Tide, but Tagovailoa is quite clearly the best signal caller Saban has had at Alabama and it appears he has quite an NFL career ahead of him as well. Even for all their other talent, the Crimson Tide goes as Tagovailoa goes.

WR Jerry JeudyRemember one sentence ago when I said, “all their other talent”? Yeah, Alabama isn’t lacking future NFL stars at other positions, either.

Jeudy already has 705 yards and nine touchdowns on 26 receptions so far this year, and he is Tagovailoa’s favorite deep threat. Tennessee’s young secondary will need to be extra vigilant to make sure Jeudy doesn’t get behind it.

LB Mack Wilson The leader of the Tide’s defense, Wilson has had his best start to a season in his three years at Alabama. He has 32 total tackles so far this season, including 2.5 tackles for loss, and an interception.

Game Outlook

Maybe I’m not the one to ask, because I didn’t think Tennessee had much of a chance going to Auburn, but this is certainly a tall order for the Volunteers — and that’s ok.

With its win over Auburn, Tennessee’s quest for six wins and a bowl berth — which would certainly make 2018 a success for Jeremy Pruitt and the Vols — is back on track regardless of what happens on Saturday.

Saban will look to improve his 12-0 record versus former assistants on Saturday when Pruitt faces his former boss for the first time. In those 12 games, the combined score is 498-157.

This week is another chance for Tennessee to measure itself against the best and gain valuable experience heading into the latter portion of its schedule.